Recently, I wrote about developing a personal mission statement, based on Matt Perman’s teaching in his excellent book What’s Best Next. In his book he follows up the discussion of a personal mission statement with that of a life goal, or calling, a subject that I am passionate about, and talk of often.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about calling over the past few years. There are many perspectives on calling that I’ve read about. Here are three that I’ve found particularly helpful, and would like to share with you:
- Life Goal. In What’s Best Next, Matt Perman writes that the large objectives we have are not actually mission statements, but are life goals, or visions. He tells us that while our mission is a matter of principles, a life goal is a specific aim. And while our mission will never be completed, a life goal can be completed. It has a finishing point.
Our mission is the ultimate reason for our existence, or our “Why”. Perman tells us that our life goal is our “What”. Our life goal is an objective so big that it governs all we do, and will most likely take our entire life. It is what most people mean when they talk about finding our calling in life. It is the chief thing we are seeking to accomplish with our life. Matt offers these helpful questions in identifying your life goal or vision:
- What would you do if you had all the money you needed and could do whatever you wanted?
- What would you do if you could do only one thing in the next three years?
What about you? Have you ever considered what your life goal is? It’s not too late to start doing that now.
- Calling as a Path and Portfolio. In his new book The Art of Work, Jeff Goins tells us that finding our calling is a path, rather than a plan. He refers to our calling as that thing that you just cannot not He states that our calling is not a destination, but a journey that doesn’t end until we die. We must see the journey as one of building bridges, not as leaping off of bridges. It‘s a process and it takes time. Finding our calling is a series of intentional decisions.
Goins writes about seeing our callings as a portfolio. He states that our calling is more than our career. Instead, he suggests that we consider the variety of things that we do (work, home, play/hobbies, etc.) as our calling portfolio.
What about you? Where are you on your calling(s) journey? And what is in your calling portfolio?
- Our Primary and Secondary Calls. Os Guinness’s book The Call is the best book on calling that I have read. I read the book in Dr. Philip Douglass’s excellent Spiritual and Ministry Formation course at Covenant Seminary two years ago. An abridged and more easily consumable version of the book was released as Rising to the Call.
Guinness tells us that there is no deeper meaning in life than to discover and live out your calling. He states that our calling is deeper than our jobs, our career, and all of our benchmarks of success. It is never too late to discover our calling, and that at some point all of us confront the question: “How do I find and fulfill the central purpose of my life?” He tells us that answering the call is the way to find and fulfill the central purpose of our lives.
He tells us that there is no calling without a caller and down through the centuries God’s call has provided the ultimate “Why” in the human search for purpose. He writes that if there is no Caller, there are no callings – only work.
Guinness tells us that if you are a follower of Christ, your primary calling is by Him, to Him, and for Him. Christian’s secondary calling, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for Him. Our secondary callings can be our jobs or vocations, but those and other things are always the secondary, never the primary calling. He refers to them as “callings”, rather than the “calling”.
Another helpful thought from Guinness is not to let our jobs define us and give us our identities. We spend so much of our waking time doing our work, this can certainly happen. Think of when you meet someone. You ask them what they “do”. We can become what we do. Guinness tells us that calling reverses such thinking, and a sense of calling should precede a choice of job and career. The main way to discover calling is along the line of what we are each created and gifted to be. So, instead of thinking that you are what you do, calling says to do what you are.
Have you found yourself falling into the trap of becoming what you do?
Many people never think of the concept of a calling, only work. They see work, or their job, as a necessary evil. It’s something they have to do to pay the bills and put food on the table. They can’t wait for the weekend and are counting down the years to retirement. But I encourage you to pursue your calling, and these books by Matt Perman, Jeff Goins and Os Guinness are a great place to start.